Farmer-Scientist Group Call for Safe Food and Organic Agriculture Support
October 16 – Smallholder farmers from various provinces in the country will be commemorating World Food Day by expressing their rejection of genetically modified food while drawing attention to the valuable impact of organic agriculture. Members of the farmer-scientist group MASIPAG will be holding a wide range of activities from Luzon to Mindanao including mass actions, public forum, media conferences and organic food and products display, among others.
“This year’s World Food Day theme is about family farming, and their significant role in achieving food security, sustainable livelihoods and rural development,” said Cris Panerio, regional coordinator for MASIPAG-Luzon. “Yet, our very own small-scale farmers continue to face threats from genetically modified organisms such as the GM corn and Golden Rice.”
MASIPAG is a 29-year old network of farmers, scientists and non-government organizations pushing for farmer-led sustainable agriculture and farmer empowerment. Member farmers of MASIPAG have achieved varying degrees of success in organic agriculture where members have been able to improve farm production through the combination of using locally adapted rice varieties, farm diversification and advocacy for better community legislations and programs.
“Through sustainable agriculture and organic farming, not only were we able to improve our farm production, but it also helped us farmers become an important part of community development,” said Carlito Seguiro, MASIPAG Chairman and a farmer from Negros Occidental. “We are able to assert our inherent rights against technologies and projects that could harm our farm, our health and our livelihood.”
MASIPAG has also figured in the campaign against Golden Rice, a genetically modified rice that will supposedly address Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. Golden Rice has been field tested in the Philippines in anticipation of its eventual commercialization. After the intense opposition from various farmers and consumers groups, including the uprooting of the clandestine field trial in Camarines Sur, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) postponed the commercialization, citing the failure of Golden Rice to produce better yields.
“Genetically modified crops such as the Golden Rice are direct threats to sustainable agriculture,” said Mamerto Pado, Chairman of MASIPAG in Camarines Sur. “GM crops can potentially harm our environment, from which poor farmers are dependent for natural resources; and GM foods can harm our health.”
No benefits from GMOs
GMOs are considered by many experts as potentially harmful due to the possible unintended effects that could occur. Incidences of GM crops contaminating non-GM crops have been documented in several countries, including the United States and Canada. Scientific studies on the health impacts of GM crops have also been conducted showing alarming effects among laboratory animals. These studies have been largely ignored and discredited by GM transnational companies.
“GMOs are a technological fix that is meant to address complicated problems with just a single solution,” said Dr. Chito Medina, MASIPAG National Coordinator. “Consider the Golden Rice – it is only meant to address Vitamin A Deficiency when in fact, the problem on malnutrition involves other nutrients as well, which is caused by the lack of access to safe and sufficient food.”
Speaking from the ongoing Organic World Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, Dr. Medina claimed that only the giant agrochemical companies benefit from the profits of GMO seeds and chemical inputs, while leaving the smallholder and family farmers poorer and hungrier.
“It is not enough to celebrate the essential role of smallholder farmers during World Food Day,” said Dr. Medina. “What is more urgent and important is to address the threats to their food security.”
Filipino farmers against GMOs
In Luzon, farmers from Camarines Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Quezon will be putting up “GMO-Free” signboards in their organic farms, to encourage farmers and communities to protect their rice and other crops from the expansion of GMOs. Farmers also encourage communities to call for ban GM crops and products in their food and agricultural farms.
In Iloilo City, a trade fair of organic products will be conducted to showcase the food diversity of Ilonggos that are sure sources of vitamins and minerals.
Simultaneous mass mobilizations in different rice-growing areas in Mindanao are slated to call on the Department of Agriculture not to allow the commercialization of golden rice. Other activities in four municipalities in Mindanao include forum on golden rice and organic agriculture, organic food and products fair, press conference, concert, cultural presentations (reading of poems on organic agriculture composed by farmers), t-shirts printing, dissemination of campaign materials, sharing of farmers’ practices and innovations, boodle fight, and opening of organic trading post.
“We decided to conduct these activities on the occasion of the world food day celebration because we want to generate a strong public opposition against golden rice which we believe is a poison disguised as food,” said Diego Dela Cruz, chairman of the advocacy committee of MASIPAG. “We are also maximizing this popular global event to popularize further organic agriculture, the future of food,” he added. ###